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Searching for consistency

In the midst of losing three consecutive games, the Steelers' offense hasn't lost its confidence.

But offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner acknowledged today the offense in general and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in particular might be pressing at times in the midst of a streak that has seen the Steelers fail to score 20 points in four consecutive games, the last three of which have resulted in losses.

"If you're talking about Ben in general, maybe," Fichtner said prior to today's practice. "Maybe as a group you feel, sometimes, the pressure of it."

The three-game slide began with a 23-17 loss to the Washington Football Team on Dec. 7 at Heinz Field.

The Steelers took possession at their 25-yard line with one timeout and 2:04 left in regulation after falling behind, 20-17, on a 45-yard field goal.

Confidence was the least of Fichtner's concerns at that juncture.

"There was not one minute that I didn't think we were going to go down, score and have a chance to win this game," he said. "I was thinking, 'Man, there's too much time.' And the first pass went right to the flat, we're going to probably get about 15 (yards), get the ball out of bounds and their player tipped it, tipped it to one of their players and the game was over."

Fast-forward to last Monday night in Cincinnati: The Steelers trailed 17-0 after a first half in which they had managed two first downs, 40 total net yards and turned the ball over three times.

Fichtner didn't detect a lack of confidence in the locker room at halftime.

"We didn't do anything on offense in the first half and there wasn't one guy that sat in there and said, 'Gosh, we're not going to be able to do this,'" Fichtner said. "First time we got the ball (in the second half), went down and scored, you could feel the energy on the sideline, 'Let's go get it again.' We got it again, we went down, kicked a field goal. It was that feeling like, maybe, maybe some of that juice is coming back, that swag and some of that that maybe had been missed over a little bit of time.

"There's a 'want to' in this group, I know that. They have two good leaders in (center Maurkice) Pouncey and Ben and we really had a pretty spirited practice yesterday."

Roethlisberger has been his harshest critic of late amid a slew of criticism Roethlisberger has assessed as justified.

"When you play like poo, you should get talked abut like that," Roethlisberger said.

Fichtner sees the issues confronting the offense as collective rather than attributable to one individual.

"We can all help," Fichtner said. "Everybody can help, it's not one person. (Roethlisberger) is the quarterback, he does make the final decision to where the ball goes. I know there's a couple balls he would like to have back. But every quarterback I've ever coached would always say, 'Boy, I wish I had that one back. That wasn't my finest moment.'

"Up until just recently he's protected the ball very well. We turn the ball over three times (in Cincinnati). We had something that, I just can't understand how it could even happen, a guard hits into our quarterback and the ball's on the ground. You do things like that, you're not going to have a chance to win games."

The Steelers won 11 games in succession prior to the current slide.

To Fichtner, it's been consistency that's been much more of an issue of late than confidence.

"I know when we weren't turning the ball over, when we weren't making critical mental mistakes such as dropped balls and/or assignment flaws, we were a hard team to beat," he said.

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